Today in History: April 20, 1972–Apollo 16 Lands on the Moon

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Credit: NASA

Forty-nine years ago today the fifth landing on the moon took place. In 1972, Apollo 16′s lunar module Orion, crewed by astronauts John W. Young and Charles M. Duke Jr., landed on the Descartes Highlands.

The largest sample collected on the moon, a 3.9 billion year old rock collected on Apollo 16, formed from an asteroid impact and named “Big Muley”; named after Bill Muehlberger, the leader of the Apollo 16 field geology team, displayed in a pressurized nitrogen filled examination case along with other lunar samples inside the lunar lab at the NASA Johnson Space Center Monday, June 17, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

Apollo 16 lifted off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 16, 1972, for a mission that lasted for 11 days. In addition to Young and Duke was Ken Mattingly, pilot of the Command Module Pilot Casper.

In total, Young and Duke would spend 71 hours on the lunar surface, with twenty hours of extra-vehicular activities (moonwalks). The Descartes Highlands had been picked as a landing site because it contained geologically older lunar material than had been collected in the some of the earlier moon landings. All told, they collected 209 pounds of material, including “Big Muley”, which at 26 pounds was the largest single rock collected during the Apollo missions. The astronauts also deployed a collection of scientific instruments.

Young and Duke lifted off from the Moon on April 23, and the mission ended with a successful splashdown on April 27.

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